2190 Main St., Baker City, 541-523-4266, barleybrownsbeer.com.
Barley Brown's was supposed to be in Seattle. At least, that was the original destination of the Brown family, who were headed west from Connecticut back in 1974. When the family's Volkswagen van broke down, they decided to just stay in the beautiful high-desert town on the northeastern corner of the state.
And so then-7-year-old Tyler Brown grew up there, working at the truck stop and bakery his parents owned. The bakery became a Mexican restaurant, which lasted until a family of Mexicans moved to town.
"The Arceo family that opened El Erradero restaurant are now longtime dear friends, and they take full credit for all of our brewing accomplishments," Brown says. "They often remind me that without them coming to Baker City, I would still be rolling burritos and driving a 1976 Ford pickup truck."
Instead, Brown runs one of the most decorated breweries in the country—24 Great American Beer Festival medals, nine of them gold, and the 2013 trophy for best small brewery in the nation—which also surpassed the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center as biggest tourist draw in Baker City.
The old restaurant space now has 11 handles of Barley Brown's beer—plus Bud Light and Strongbow, because this is a small town. It's also one of the best restaurants in town, serving up great steaks from a local ranching co-op that are all-natural and hormone free, with garlic toast and a medley of steamed broccoli and cauliflower on the side.
Across the street, there's a second, much larger space with a production brewery and a taproom serving up 22 handles of stronger, rarer stuff, like Don Vanuchi, Barley Brown's bourbon-barrel-aged stout, and an 11.5-percent-ABV dark ale called CHAOS.
Brown's beers steer hoppy—his biggest awards have been for IPA and CDA categories—but he also does the best chile beers I've ever had. If you go, get dinner at the pub, then hope there's live music on the taproom stage, which is perched above the restrooms, about 10 feet off the ground.
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